Nativist legacies of desinicization and nationalist sentiment in poetry during the Second Sino-Japanese War
ABSTRACT This essay explores roles poetry played in creating a discourse of Japanese imperialism through both its inherited formal poetics of allusion and its highlighting of Nativist concerns in aestheticizing and naturalizing Japanese colonial and imperial interests in the 1930s and early 1940s and in framing military aggression against China. It explores how the extreme intertextuality in classical poetic modes, revived during the period leading up to the War, helped to blind Japanese to the contradictions within their imperialist and colonialist ideology. Following examples of poetry and song reflecting the ideology of the Japanese Empire and creating a Great East Asian Sphere of Co-prosperity, this paper explores in particular the articulation of a national cultural identity crisis in the writings Yamakawa Hiroshi (1916-1945), whose work foregrounds antiquated Nativist issues of national cultural autonomy and desinicization. These issues were originally expressed by the Nativists as issues related to ancient language and poetry, and with Yamakawa, who studied Nativism, they are again used as such to provide intellectual support for his Japanist and imperialist positions. Thus the desinicization Nativist fantasy of the eighteenth century comes full circle in the Sino-Japanese War itself, adding to our understanding of the contradictions in Japan’s Great East Asian Sphere of Co-prosperity and furthering our understanding of the historical antagonisms within Japan that led to the period of expansionism and fascism. Nativist elements of Japanese nationalism and imperialism are shown to be analogous to the Lacanian traumatic, unknowable Real (little object a) as it is predicated on the impossible recovery of a lost ancient Japanese culture and way of life which has been transformed through the embrace of Chinese language and culture. Thus the symbolic-ideological writing of poetry becomes a screen of symptoms preserving the Nativist fantasy and carrying Japan into disaster.
KEYWORDS: Sino-Japanese War in literature, Japanese poetry, Japanese Nativism, extreme intertextuality, imperial jouissance, Slavoj Žižek
Dean Brink (包德樂) is Assistant Professor in the English Department, Tamkang University, Taiwan. He earned his PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and his Masters in comparative literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. His recent research has focused on ideological uses of poetic matrices and extreme intertextuality in Japanese poetry, especially in colonial Taiwanese newspapers. Other studies have examined contemporary poetry, including Tawara Machi, John Ashbery, American antiwar poetry, and antiglobalization themes in the poetry of Jiao Tong.